Cover Photo: Netflix

Documentaries often get a bad rep for being dull next to the action-packed movies we've gotten used to. However, these picks might just change your mind! Give this genre a try with these excellent movies and limited series that feature heartfelt and gruelling stories about the world of sports and fitness. From murder, doping, robberies, and more, these features will prove that life just might be truly stranger than fiction.

1. The Last Dance

#1 on the Netflix charts in the Philippines today, The Last Dance is definitely one series you shouldn't be sleeping on. Chronicling Michael Jordan's college and early NBA days, this documentary combines archival footage and recent interviews to bring audiences a picture of the high pressures Jordan faced at the height of his career. Exploring Jordan's journey next to pivotal players like Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, basketball fans have deemed this series one of the best yet!

2. The Carter Effect

A look into the Canadian basketball scene, The Carter Effect, features eight-time NBA All-Star, Vince Carter. Standing at 6-foot-6, Carter hails from Daytona Beach, Florida and went on to make waves in the world of basketball when he joined the Raptors in 1998. Produced by LeBron James, Maverick Carter, Drake, and Adel Future Nur, this documentary brings together sports, hip-hop, and pop culture to give audiences a compelling story. 

3. Little Miss Sumo

Japan’s national sport, Sumo, is a respectable game that still follows ancient rituals and traditions. However, this means that the sport continues to exclude women including the mighty Hiyori Kon. Strong at heart, mind, and body, Kon’s fight for equal rights is portrayed in this compelling documentary that goes beyond showing the value of sport.

4. Icarus

This Sundance Film Festival winner uncovers and explores doping in the Olympics since 1968. A mind-boggling tale of how competitive sports were manipulated by labs and key figures in Russian government and committees, Icarus unveils a tale that encapsulates the the greek tragedy itself in what would be known as the biggest scandal in sports history. 

5. Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez

This documentary focuses on convicted murderer and former professional American Football player, Aaron Hernandez. Not merely a true crime drama, The Killer Inside also unravels the politics and social inequalities minorities and homosexuals face in the world of sports. Pulling interviews from friends, colleagues, and witnesses, this documentary explores the bigger forces that have contributed to Aaron Hernandez's journey through the justice system and the prestigious world of the NFL (National Football League).

6. The Ronda Rousey Story: Through My Father's Eyes

Following an Olympian and UFC champion's ascent in the sports universe, this feature shows audiences the intense duress and challenges Rousey had to overcome in her career. It gives us a touching look into her childhood and how she processed her father's suicide when she was age 8, alongside the preconceptions women face in the world of mixed martial arts. Find out more about Rousey—in and out of the ring—when you add this to your movie list! 

7. The Game Changers

Diet and nutrition play a big role in sports. This is why the documentary showcases the diet of real athletes—which is mainly plant-based—while unravelling myths and facts of fitness. Take a deep dive into the world of fitness featuring real, healthy athletes.

8. The Redeemed and the Dominant: Fittest on Earth

Following athletes as they traverse the intense physical obstacles of the 2017 Reebok Crossfit Games, this hour-long documentary is pure adrenaline. It shows the perseverance it takes to be part of the famous competition as well as part of the elite roster of Crossfit champions. Full of awesome stunts that push the limits of physicality, there's a lot to behold when you add The Redeemed and the Dominant to your must-watch list. 

9. Alexis Viera: A Story of Surviving

This documentary follows retired Uruguayan football star, Alexis Viera, in his journey of survival. The former goalkeeper for America de Cali suffered a monumental loss when he was shot during a robbery in Colombia. Viera suffered a bullet wound to the left side of his chest which caused a severe spinal injury resulting to a loss of sensation in both legs and significant damage to his lung. This documentary explores how Viera overcame this life changing accident and his monumental rise from the ashes. 

10. Cheer

Behind the bright smiles that every cheer squad wears on every performance is a hardworking and resilient individual who gave their all to be cheering at that very moment. In Cheer, this moment of greatness is not reduced to an hour but told in episodes to share every hard-earned detail that led to the consistent victory of the Navarro College squad group since 2000.

11. Formula 1: Drive to Survive

With two seasons under its belt, many car fans have binged-watch this high-octane series since it first came out in March 2019. Produced by Netflix and Formula One itself, this docu-series gives us a behind-the-scenes look into the elaborate world of racing. Trailing the 2018 and 2019 Formula One World Championship, each episode highlights the lives and careers of racers as they face each Grand Prix. Get a glimpse of life in the cockpits, the paddock, pit stops, and more as you discover just how high the stakes are for these professional racers.

12. Sunderland 'Til I Die

Released December 2018, Sunderland 'Til I Die documents the events around the eponymous English football club during their 2018-2019 season which resulted in their relegation from the EFL (English Football League). Traversing the highs and low of the team, football fans will surely enjoy this touching tale of camaraderie, loss, and earnest redemption.

13. Accomplice

Yearning to ride down a mountain or roam scenic places? Accomplice will take you to various bike destinations that are visually mesmerising. It’s also quite sentimental, especially for a cyclist who has fallen in love with it, whether for sport or recreational purposes.

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